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2008 U.S. Olympic Trials Blog: Day 1

June 27, 2008  Eugene, Ore.  RSS
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Danielle McNaney, a 2005 Liberty graduate, begins her quest for the Beijing Olympics today, with the first day of hepathlon competition.

Danielle McNaney, a 2005 Liberty graduate, begins her quest for the Beijing Olympics today, with the first day of hepathlon competition.

From newly renovated Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore., LibertyFlames.com will provide live updates from the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field. Stay tuned as current and former Liberty athletes Clendon Henderson and Danielle McNaney battle our nation's best athletes for a berth in the Beijing Olympic Games.

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6:35 p.m. - Day one of the U.S. Olympic Trials heptathlon is now complete, and it was the best-ever opening day for Danielle McNaney. Aided by a 2.7 m/s tailwind, she just ran a 25.35 for 200 meters in a tightly contested heat. The second through fifth finishers were separated by one-tenth of a second.

McNaney will end day one in 13th place, with her top opening day score of 3,354 points. She is 62 points ahead of where she was at this point when she tallied a career-high 5,673 points in 2006.

Hyleas Fountain of Nike continued her spectacular day one performance with the fastest 200-meter dash, a personal-best 23.31 clocking. The defending national champion has racked up 3,989 points, giving her a 239-point advantage over Diana Pickler, with tomorrow's three events left.

Speaking of tomorrow, action will get underway at 2 p.m. Pacific (5 p.m. Eastern) with the heptathlon long jump. The javelin and the 800-meter run, arguably McNaney's two strongest disciplines, will follow. I'll leave you with the final day one standings and sign off for now. See you tomorrow afternoon. Thanks for your interest in Liberty track & field.

Heptathlon Standings (Through Day One)
1) Hyleas Fountain, Nike - 3,989
2) Diana Pickler, Asics - 3,750
3) Jacquelyn Johnson, Unattached - 3,717
4) Virginia Johnson, Nike - 3,671
5) Bettie Wade, Michigan - 3,633
13) Danielle McNaney, Unattached - 3,354

4:55 p.m. - For the first time today, the heptathletes had to compete facing the prevailing north wind, during the just-completed shot put competition. The breeze certainly did not prove detrimental, as three of the first four athletes set new personal bests on their very first throws.

Danielle McNaney's second throw, which reached 38-9.75, was her best effort. It was worth 650 points, increasing her point total to 2,499. McNaney is 57 points ahead of her personal-best pace, and could pick up even more ground in today's final event, the 200-meter dash. During her best-ever competition, the 2006 U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships, McNaney clocked a 25.40 with a slight, 0.5 m/s tailwind. Today, it looks like she will have more of an aiding wind.

Hyleas Fountain increased her lead, as the southpaw unleashed the afternoon's top throw, a 44-10.25 effort. Her new personal best leaves the Nike competitor 159 points ahead of the new second-place participant, Jacquelyn Johnson.

McNaney remains in the 12th position overall, but resides just 14 points behind Nike's Lela Nelson. Today's fourth and final event, the 200-meter dash, is slated to go off in three sections, starting at 6 p.m.

Heptathlon Standings (Through Three Events)
1) Hyleas Fountain, Nike - 2,941
2) Jacquelyn Johnson, Unattached - 2,782
3) Diana Pickler, Washington State - 2,780
4) Bettie Wade, Michigan - 2,720
5) Fiona Asigbee, Unattached - 2,698
12) Danielle McNaney, Unattached - 2,499

We're only five minutes away from the official Opening Ceremonies for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Track & Field. I've already noted the excitement this meet has inspired in the Eugene area. However, people have traveled from far and wide to be a part of the action.

As I watched McNaney take her three shot put tries, I was seated right behind a pair of reporters for French publication L'Equipe. I'm glad they didn't ask me any questions, because the only French word I know is "Oui," and I don't want to agree to something I shouldn't be agreeing to.

3:40 p.m. - A quick update/clarification on the start time of the heptathlon shot put. It turns out we will begin at 4:20 p.m. after all. The announcement I overheard a few minutes ago noted that athletes may begin warming up at 3:45.

With a lull in the action here at Hayward Field, many fans are taking advantage of a chance to mingle with members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team in the festival area adjacent to the stadium.

3:30 p.m. - Danielle McNaney, on track for a personal-best score in the heptathlon through today's first two events, now sits in 12th place overall, with 1,849 points. Nike's Hyleas Fountain maintains the lead at 2,169, although local crowd favorite Diana Pickler has trimmed her advantage to 35 markers. Pickler, a former Washington State standout, posted the best high jump of the day, a new personal-best 6-0.5 clearance, to take over second place.

It sounds like the heptathlon shot put will get underway earlier than the originally listed 4:20 p.m. start time. I'll post a full report after McNaney's three attempts are completed.

Here are the standings through the first two events. The three premeet favorites--Fountain, Pickler and four-time NCAA heptathlon champ Jacquelyn Johnson--own the coveted top three spots at this point.

Heptathlon Standings (Through Two Events)
1) Hyleas Fountain, Nike - 2,169
2) Diana Pickler, Asics - 2,134
3) Jacquelyn Johnson, Unattached - 2,059
4) Bettie Wade, Michigan - 1,991
5) Ryanne DuPree, Unattached - 1,987
12) Danielle McNaney, Unattached - 1,849

Among the competitors currently listed behind McNaney are Pickler's twin sister, Julie Pickler, who also competes for Asics, and ECAC titlist Kasey Hill of Boston College.

There's still a long way to go in the heptathlon competition, but McNaney has to be very pleased thus far.

3 p.m. - There are still a few heptathletes competing in the high jump, but Danielle McNaney has gone out at 5-6.5, after making a pair of clutch, third-attempt clearances. The height is just 1.25 inches shy of her personal best.

McNaney entered the competition at 5-1.75 with an easy clearance. First-attempt clearances at 5-3 and 5-4.25 quickly followed. Then, the Kansas native was able to get over on her third and final try at both 5-5.25 and 5-6.5. She nearly matched her personal best from 2006 at 5-7.75, but clipped the bar with her heel on attempt No. 3.

McNaney's performance was worth 842 points, boosting her cumulative score to 1,849. I will post updated standings, once everyone is done high jumping. The best high jumpers are now making attempts at 6-0.5. The former Lady Flame is still 46 points ahead of her pace from the 2006 U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships, when she tallied a personal-best 5,673 markers.

McNaney is competing unattached, but she's still wearing Liberty colors. She is sporting a red top and blue shorts with a white stripe. Her next event will be the shot put, listed for a 4:20 p.m. start.

1:30 p.m. - There is a significant breeze blowing out of the north here at Hayward Field, which is being enjoyed all the way around. Not only is it keeping the air temperature bearable, but it also pushed the heptathletes to some very fast times in their opening event, the 100-meter hurdles.

Danielle McNaney ran in the third of three sections, the one which benefitted from the strongest tailwind, measuring 3.5 m/s. After a slow start, McNaney recovered to finish second in her heat, in a personal-best 13.80 seconds. Only Boston College's Kasey Hill, the ECAC heptathlon titlist, defeated McNaney in her heat, posting a 13.73.

The major fireworks came in the middle section, which featured a 2.8 m/s tailwind. Defending U.S. champion Hyleas Fountain set a new American record for the heptathlon hurdles, blazing down the track to a 12.65 clocking. Her effort was so impressive that it made the very fine 12.83 performance by Virginia "Gi-Gi" Johnson look slow in comparison.

This is exactly the start McNaney was hoping for. She is 83 points ahead of her personal-best pace and is tied with Fiona Asigbee and Shevell Quinley for ninth place overall. Up next, the high jump, which will be split up into two pits at the south end of Hayward Field. The event is set to begin in approximately 25 minutes.

Heptathlon Standings (Through One Event)
1) Hyleas Fountain, Nike - 1,178
2) Virginia Johnson, Nike - 1,150
3) Jacquelyn Johnson, Unattached - 1,106
4) Diana Pickler, Asics - 1,105
5) Ryanne DuPree, Unattached - 1,071
9T) Danielle McNaney, Unattached - 1,007
9T) Fiona Asigbee, Unattached - 1,007
9T) Shevell Quinley, Arizona - 1,007

12:30 p.m. Pacific – Welcome to Eugene, Oregon, host city of the U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field for the first time in 28 years. When the Trials last visited historic Hayward Field, the athletes were fighting for spots on a team which did not get the chance to compete, as the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

This time around, anticipation has been building for months in a city known as "Track Town, USA." Each of the eight days of competition is sold out at 10,500-seat Hayward Field on the campus of the University of Oregon, and ticket scalpers are actually roaming the streets of Eugene—something I never expected to see at a track meet!

If you will permit a tangent, a couple other things I've seen for the first time here at Hayward Field—a drinking cup made from corn and valet parking for bicycles!

Hayward Field is arguably the United States' most famous track & field facility and is a fitting host for this Super Bowl of American track & field. Think NBA Finals in the Madison Square Garden, the Super Bowl at Lambeau Field or the World Series at Wrigley Field (Sorry Red Sox and Yankees fans).

This stadium, built in 1919, is literally oozing history and atmosphere on this sunny, warmer–than-usual 90-degree day in Eugene. Now, after millions of dollars in recent renovations, Hayward also boasts all of the latest amenities as well as a cool, high-tech scoreboard (and thankfully, a large overhang over both main grandstands.

For more about Hayward Field, click here.

These next 10 days promise to add to the Hayward Field lore, as America's finest track & field athletes battle it out for one of the coveted berths in the Beijing Olympics. The formula for success is pretty simple (in theory, not in practice). Be one of the top three finishers possessing an Olympic Games "A" qualifying standard in your event, and you're in.

Adding to the drama of the Olympic Trials is the fact that, unlike the Super Bowl or World Series, the Olympic Games roll around only once every four years. If you have a bad day, too many false starts, etc., you are out of luck and must wait for the 2012 Trials, which will incidentally return to Eugene and Hayward Field.

Without further ado, let's take a look at what the opening day has in store. The very first event on the track will be the women's heptathlon 100-meter hurdles, featuring 2005 Liberty graduate Danielle McNaney.

McNaney, who has finished as high as sixth (in 2006) at the U.S. Outdoor Track & Field Championships in the heptathlon, will be making her Olympic Trials debut. She will get underway by running in lane 5 of the third and final heat of the hurdles. Meet favorites Hyleas Fountain, Jacquelyn Johnson and Diana Pickler are grouped together in the second heat.

Following the hurdles will be the heptathlon high jump, shot put and 200-meter dash, in that order. The heptathlon will be the only game in town until 5:30 p.m. local time, when the heats of the women's 100-meter dash are set to begin. It will be a long, busy day for the 18 heptathletes, and the high temperature could become a factor as well.

Even though action is light this afternoon, I still expect a sizable crowd to file into Hayward Field. More than 5,000 people took in the opening session of the 1972 Trials here, even though the only events on the schedule that morning were several heats of the men's 110-meter hurdles and the preliminary throws in the men's hammer.

Watch for updates throughout the day, as McNaney attempts to get off to a solid start. Normally a better day two performer, the Kansas native could put herself in great position with a couple big performances in the coming hours. Enjoy!